8th Symposium on Frequency Standards and Metrology 2015 in Potsdam

This week sees a symposium on frequency standards and metrology taking place in Potsdam, Germany. The symposium is held roughly every five years, always at a different locations. This year’s edition is organized by PTB in Braunschweig, namely by the chair, Fritz Riehle, and his team. The main topics of the symposium are microwave and optical clocks, as well as the comparison between clocks over ever increasing distances.

nuClock will be represented by Ekkehard Peik of PTB, delivering a talk entitled “Search for the low-energy isomer in 229Th and the nuclear optical clock”. As a second PTB contribution, Maksim Okhapkin will present a poster “Towards electronic bridge excitation of the low-energy nuclear isomer in Th-229”. Simon Stellmer of TU Wien will be substituted by Lars von der Wense and Benedict Seiferle of LMU Munich: they will present a joint TU Wien / LMU poster covering recent (and exciting !) work.

All in all, there will be some 50 talks and 110 posters spread over the entire week. The conference begins on Monday Oct. 12th with a keynote by Nobel laureat Dave Wineland. The conference website can be found here.



Welcome Sarina Geldhof !

The nuClock family welcomes a new member: Beginning of October, Sarina Geldhof started her PhD in the group of Iain Moore at Jyväskylä University. Sarina’s work will be centered around optical laser spectroscopy of thorium. We wish her all the best and lots of fun during her thesis work: Good luck, Sarina!

Sarina Geldhof

Sarina Geldhof

New Publication by the MPIK group

The theory group of A. Pálffy (Heidelberg) proposed a new mechanism to connect between optical photons and X-rays. This interface is an optical resonator, where one of the cavity mirrors is formed by a micro-mechanical cantilever. The tip of the cantilever contains specific nuclei of interest (e.g. 229Th), which resonantly absorb X-rays in a Mössbauer-type fashion. The preprint is entitled “An Optomechanical Interface Bridging X-Ray and Optical Photons” and can be found here: arXiv:1508.06769.

nuClock kick-off meeting in Munich

The official kick-off meeting of our nuClock project is currently taking place in Munich! For two days (September 14/15), some 30 experts will discuss recent results and future experiments related to the hunt for the isomer transition. The nuClock members are joined by a number of external scientists, coming from as far as the US and China, to make nuClock the central hub of Thorium research. We are looking forward to a fruitful meeting in an enthusiastic atmosphere. After all, it’s Oktoberfest season in Munich!

Top row:

Top row, left to right: Benedict Seiferle (LMU), Stephan Falke and Jürgen Stuhler (TOPTICA), Xinxin Zhao (Los Alamos), Salvatore Micalizio (INRIM), Andreas Vernaleken, and Thomas Udem (MPQ). Third row: Rukang Li and Xiaoyang Wang (BCCRD, IPC, China), Stephan Schneider (TU Wien), Mustapha Laatiaoui (GSI), Georgy Kazakov, Matthias Schreitl, and Georg Winkler (TU Wien). Second row: Iain Moore and Sarina Geldhof (Jyväskylä), Maksim Okhapkin (PTB). Front row: Kyle Beloy (NIST), Peter Thirolf and Lars von der Wense (LMU), Thorsten Schumm (TU Wien), Adriana Palffy (MPIK), Ekkehard Peik and David-Marcel Meier (PTB).

Japanese collaborators visit Vienna

Today, Prof. Noboru Sasao and Prof. Motohiko Yoshimura from Okayama University visited the Vienna group and gave a talk on an approach to measure neutrino rest masses using the isomer transition in Th-229. Discussions on future collaborations, as well as labtours at the Atominstitut, filled the day.

Matthias Schreitl

Discussing details of the crystal growing procedure: Matthias Schreitl, Noburo Sasao, Motohiko Yoshimura, and Thorsten Schumm (from left to right).

Introducing TIB

Knowing the wavelength of the Th-229 isomer transition is utterly important, as it determines which schemes for a nuclear clock will work, and which ones will not. This value, however, is not yet known precisely, and it is one of the first aims of nuClock to determine the transition wavelength.

To add some fun to the search, we are introducing TIB, the Thorium Isomer Bet. Here’s how it works: Make a guess of what the transition wavelength λ is, and quantify how certain you are about your bet (Δλ). Towards the end of the nuClock project, we will determine the actual value λ0 and its uncertainty Δλ0, based on latest measurements. Whoever came closest to the actual value will be invited to the final nuClock meeting, held in June 2019 in Vienna, and receive a mighty jéroboam (3-liter) bottle of champagne!

To join the game, send your values of λ and Δλ (in nanometers) to Simon. Everyone (expert or not, within or outside of nuClock) is invited, bets are accepted until the end of this year.

For the experts: Each bet will be modelled as a laser of wavelength λ, linewidth Δλ, and unit intensity, and we will calculate how many Th nuclei each laser can excite, using the Lorentzian-type expression for off-resonant excitation. Largest number N wins!


TIB formula

New Publication by the PTB group

Ekkehard Peik and Maxim Okhapkin published a new review article on the unique low-energy two-level system in the nucleus of Th-229. This up-to-date review paper describes all past and present approaches to find the isomer transition and outlines possible schemes for a future optical clock. The article “Nuclear clocks based on resonant excitation of gamma-transitions” has been published in a special issue entitled “The measurement of time” in the French series of books Comptes Rendus Physique, edited by Christophe Salomon.

New Publication by the PTB group

Yet another attempt to find the Th isomer transition! The PTB group in Braunschweig, headed by Ekkehard Peik, teamed up with the MLS group in Berlin to perform optical spectroscopy of surface-adsorbed Th-229. In a first step, PTB researcher Atsushi Yamaguchi undertook an excursion into the voodoo of wet chemistry to find the optimum recipe to persuade the precious Th-229 atoms to firmly stick to the surface of a VUV-transparent MgF2 disk. In a second step, this probe was placed into the synchrotron radiation beam provided by the Metrology Light Source (MLS), a large PTB facility in Berlin. The wavelength of the radiation was changed in steps, and in between the steps, UV-sensitive photomultipliers (PMTs) recorded the fluorescence of the sample. Unfortunately, no resonance was found. The work has been published in the New Journal of Physics. Read more

New Publication by the Vienna group

Simon Stellmer and co-workers have published a long paper that summarizes a whole series of experiments performed within the last year. The studies are concerned with the detailed characterization of the photoluminescence, radioluminescence, and thermoluminescence properties of Th-doped CaF2 crystals. Such crystals will be used as a platform for direct optical spectroscopy of the isomer transition. There are, however, considerable worries that the glowing of the crystal itself, as it is subjected to radioactivity and strong UV light, might be much stronger than the faint sought-after nuclear signal. The studies show that the worries are indeed justified, as the crystals emit characteristic luminescence in the UV range. Luckily, the emission wavelength is sufficiently far away from the expected nuclear transition, such that a great deal of crystal luminescence can be filtered away spectrally. The researchers also characterized the decay time of the luminescence and its dependence on temperature. The findings allowed them to develop strategies to further reduce the luminescence background. All in all, this experimental work proofs that CaF2 crystals are a viable platform for optical spectroscopy. The paper is available on the arXiv and has been published with Nature Scientific Reports.


Start of nuClock

nuClock is on its way! Finally, after more than a year of gathering ideas, writing the proposal, and setting up the contract, we were able to set sails and embark on the new project. Impossible to say into which direction the thorium research will move during the next four years. Stay with us, it’s for sure going to be exciting!